Mama Cax, a boundary-breaking model, activist and advocate for the fashion industry’s inclusion of differently abled models and people of color, has died of complications from a weeklong illness, her family announced on Friday, via social media. She was 30.
The Haitian American model, born Cacsmy Brutus, had been open about health struggles in recent weeks, on Instagram, after she discovered blood clots in her leg, thigh, abdomen and near a filter in her lungs (placed there for cancer treatment in her teens) while in London for a photoshoot. According to the family’s Instagram post, she fought her illness for a week in the hospital with “the same grit” with which she fought cancer, but died on 16 December.
“To say that Cax was a fighter was an understatement,” the post reads. At 14, Cax was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer, and underwent an unsuccessful hip replacement surgery, resulting in the amputation of her right leg at 16. A vocal advocate for inclusivity in fashion, self-love and self-confidence, Mama Cax broke out in the modeling world with a Wet ’n’ Wild campaign in 2017. She went on to land a Teen Vogue cover in 2018 and to work with brands such as Sephora, Tommy Hilfiger, ASOS and Rihanna’s Fenty.
Mama Cax also gained a following for her candid discussion of body positivity and including differently abled perspectives. “I started using social media to talk about my body insecurities after childhood cancer left me with a million scars (mostly emotional 🤷🏾♀️) and an amputated leg,” she wrote in a November Instagram post. “The question I hate the most is “who is your role model“ – never had one until I became my own role model BUT I admire strong and fierce people who use their privileges to uplift others.”
As news spread of her death on Friday, models Tess Holliday and Nina Agdal and actor Jameela Jamil shared condolences online, as did pop star and Fenty mogul Rihanna, who cast Mama Cax in her Savage X Fenty lingerie fashion show this September.
“A queen. A force. A powerhouse beauty that brought her strength to the @savagexfenty stage this year inspiring so many across the globe. Rest In Power sis,” Rihanna tweeted.